"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

29 February 2008

Joy in Heartache

The sky deep indigo, pale clouds scattered through its panorama, a glowing quarter-moon reminding me to rejoice in beauty even in the aching desire for something other.

25 February 2008

Gray Days

I believe that one should really not complain about the weather. It's not, of course, a belief I often live out.

So, today: I am weary, bone-weary, of gray skies and rain and mist.

In the last month or more, we've seen the sun two or three times, for a few cold afternoon hours at most. Glorious, but not enough to warm heart or body. Once, at the full, Phoebe's yellow-ivory glow lit me down the old ferry road and gave me hope. Once a sliver of moon on the highway and a star above the student life building.

I always feel it's somehow in bad taste, at best, to pray about the weather. Surely something so grandiose serves far greater, far more important purposes in God's scheme for the world than to play nursemaid to my petty moods.

But, today, I can't help just this: if it wouldn't spoil some such greater purpose, could we, perhaps, have a couple of days of sunlight and warmth? Just to remind us that the leaden sky isn't all that's left us. Either way, praise; I will praise Thee.

Update: So I walked out of my class at 9:00 a.m. to actually see the sky itself -- blue it was; I 'd almost forgotten -- and individual clouds, as many white as gray. Nice! Looks like it may be clouding back up, but still . . . it was a kind reminder. So thank You, Lord, You who care about even our mundane and silly complaints.

Update 2: So now it's mid-afternoon and one of the loveliest days -- need a jacket but not a coat, beautiful sun in a cloudless sky . . . Oh, yes, what a treat, what a kindness! Some days my expectations are just far too low . . .

18 February 2008

From the Mouths of Babes . . .

All four of our married children -- the grandchildren -- and four of their children -- the great-grandchildren -- attended the memorial service for my mother-in-law: a lovely blessing indeed. Lots of sibling pictures were taken -- it was the first time in eight years all five were together -- and we look forward to receiving them in the days to come.

Our middle son's 5-year-old daughter was the questioner. Her daddy had prepared them for the service, discussing death and heaven and the fact that Grandma June was no longer here with us. "I wish Grandma was still alive," she would say now and then. Riding across Denton in the back seat of her daddy's van, she and I talked.

"Why is papa [Grandpa] giving Daddy money?"

"It's money from Grandma June to help Daddy pay for the motel so you could be here this weekend."

Puzzled look: "Grandma June is still alive?"

"No; she left some money to help people."

"She can help people after she died?"

"Yes -- before she died, she left some money with us that we could use for her to help people."

After digesting that for a while, "Is Grandma June in heaven?"

"Yes, she's with Jesus now."

"I'm afraid to go to heaven."

"You needn't be -- Jesus loves you very much, and when it's time for you to live in heaven, you'll live with Him forever, and see Grandma again, too."

"Can we go to heaven in a rocket ship?"

"Well, no -- heaven isn't the kind of place you can get to in a rocket ship or a car or an airplane. Jesus has to take you there when it's time for you to go."

Eyes wide with sudden insight, voice breathless with delight:

"You mean Jesus picks us up in His arms and carries us there?"

02 February 2008

Created Characters

It is God's story. My story is not my own; it is contained within His larger story, and I am only one -- though a known and beloved one -- of the many characters He has created to people His story.

Writers often remark that the characters they create "take over" the work: "What is a god to do?!" Annie Dillard asks, perhaps only half facetiously. We understand this, as a rule, to mean that in creating his characters, the writer has endowed them with certain character traits (strengths and flaws), background, values, skills, knowledge, abilities, and so on, which then dictate the probable actions they will take. The writer cannot make them do anything he wants for his own convenience; they have taken on a life of their own which he no longer fully controls.

God as our Author has endowed us with certain characteristics, too -- and these include the free will to love or hate, obey or transgress, live His story or try to write our own. He chooses not to control the story as a puppet-master, but to allow His characters to choose: obedience to our created nature through obedience to His loving will, or rebellious attempts to become what we are not and can never be -- gods ourselves.

And it behooves us to keep clearly in mind that each choice holds inevitable consequences, because that is the way He has created the world He has placed us within -- nor can He make the consequences otherwise, any more than a human author, if he wishes to be trusted by the reader, may break the very rules which govern the world he himself has created.

Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.